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FIRST LOOK: Tesla's solar roofs are here

Tesla is officially taking orders for its solar glass roof, which is said to be cheaper than a regular roof with an "infinity warranty."

>> Read more trending news

Elon Musk tweeted on Wednesday that the solar roof can be ordered in "almost any country." The roofs will be deployed this year in the U.S. and overseas in 2018. 

The roofs will come in textured, smooth, Tuscan and slate. 

The roofs are made with tempered glass and are more than three times stronger than standard roofing tiles, according to Tesla's website.

Learn more here.

Amazon Echo Show: 5 things to know about the 'stupendously powerful' device

Amazon officially unveiled the Amazon Echo Show, its first smart speaker with a built-in touchscreen, Tuesday.

Here are five things to know about the new device:

>> Creepy or useful? Amazon’s new Echo Look selfie camera wants to help you get dressed

Tech specs 
  • 7-inch display
  • Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Dual 2-inch stereo speakers powered by Dolby
  • 5-megapixel front-facing camera

>> Read more trending news

Features
  • Built-in camera
  • Voice-assistance from Alexa; includes at least 12,000 skills or tasks
  • Bluetooth
  • Touchscreen display offers more on-screen information (step-by-step recipe instructions, 10-day weather reports) and can be used to play videos.
  • Music display features: Connects to Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and offers real-time song lyrics, custom stations, curated playlists, album art
  • Organization features: Ask Alexa to start timers, manage calendars, create to-do lists and sync all the information with the Alexa app.
  • Drop In feature: Free voice-call feature (similar to Apple’s FaceTime) for those with the Alexa app, Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Show to message or call each other.
  • Compatible with smart home devices such as cameras, lights, fans, garages, sprinklers and more, so you can potentially ask Alexa to turn off the lights without getting off the couch

>> On AJC.com: Someone asked Amazon’s Alexa about the CIA and the answers are hilarious

What are critics saying?

Wired Magazine called the device and its abilities “stupendously powerful” and lauded the touchscreen feature that now complements Alexa’s voice control. 

“A screen in the Echo universe means there’s almost nothing you and Alexa can’t do,” Wired’s David Pierce wrote.

But The Verge noted some of the device’s limitations, including a “slightly unsettling” feature in Drop In, the voice-call feature. Drop In allows users to white-list individual contacts who will be able to pop up and start a video chat on your Echo Show unannounced.

“I personally cannot imagine ever letting my friends have this power, but maybe that’s just me.” tech critic The Verge’s Chaim Gartenberg said.

Other limitations include Amazon’s single-user system, which would give anyone in the house access to things like to-do lists and would set off all your devices if someone calls you via Drop In.

In addition, because the device is built to run Echo skills and not apps, users won’t be able to run Amazon’s own Fire OS apps, or anything from the Google Play Store, Gartenberg said.

>> On AJC.com: 7 hidden perks of Amazon Prime you probably never knew about

How to buy

The Amazon Echo Show is currently available to pre-order on Amazon for $229.99 in black or white. The device will be released June 28. 

Amazon is also offering a buy two, save $100 deal with promo code SHOW2PACK.

How to use

Plug the Echo Show into a power outlet, connect to the internet and ask Alexa.

More at Amazon.com.

FaceApp transforms selfies via neural network

For better or for worse, a lot of us have gotten used to selfie face filters in apps such as Snapchat and Facebook Messenger that can add silly extremes to our photos and videos, such as sticking a unicorn horn on our head or turning us into superheroes. But FaceApp, an increasingly popular app that debuted in February for iOS and Android, is different; depending on the photo, it can convincingly and quickly show what a person might look like years from now, as a child or even as the opposite gender.

>> Read more trending news

Leaving aside all questions about gender politics and, for the age filter, whether it’s actually a good idea to take a peek into the future that may be too accurate, the technology sounds interesting. As with the Prisma app, it apparently uses an online network to quickly apply artificial intelligence to a photo filter.

The app has already gotten some criticism for how it handles darker faces and there are concerns that its ability to turn frowns into smiles make it a natural for spreading fake, out-of-context photos. But its eerily uncanny technology means it’s not likely to go away anytime soon. Here are some examples:

Here's how to watch NASA's first live 360-degree video of a rocket launch

NASA and United Launch Alliance will broadcast the first 360-degree view of a rocket launch live Tuesday as a cargo payload heads to the International Space Station.

>> Read more trending news

The launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is scheduled for 11:11 a.m. EDT with a 30-minute window. The broadcast begins at 11 a.m. EDT.

To see the launch live, go to NASA’s YouTube channel and use your mouse to manipulate the view.

>> Click here to watch the livestream on YouTube

“While virtual reality and 360 technology have been increasing in popularity, live 360 technology is a brand-new capability that has recently emerged,” NASA said in a statement. “Recognizing the exciting possibilities opened by applying this new technology to spaceflight, NASA, ULA and Orbital ATK seized this opportunity to virtually place the public at the base of the rocket during launch.”

Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft will be loaded with 7,600 pounds of research, supplies and hardware for the space station. It will launch on ULA’s Atlas V rocket.

Apple on track to test self-driving cars in California

Apple is on track to begin testing self-driving cars in California. 

The tech giant was added to a long list of companies on the California Department of Motor Vehicles website that hold permits for the state’s Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program.

>> Read more trending news

Apple, traditionally highly secretive about its technology, joins companies like Google, Tesla, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and others, that are testing autonomous driving technology.

Apple’s permit allows it to test three 2015 Lexus SUVs vehicles retrofitted with self-driving technology, and covers six human operators, who must be in the SUV during testing, according to Fox Business.

The company has been highly secretive about its autonomous driving program, called Project Titan, and is not commenting on the new permit.

23andme cleared by FDA to offer genetic health risk tests

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized 23andme, a personal genomics company, to offer disease-risk predicting tests directly to consumers without a prescription.

The approval comes after a lengthy battle that began in 2013 when the FDA forced 23andme to remove all 254 of its genetic health risk tests from the market, according to Forbes. 23andme uses a consumer's saliva sample to run genetic tests. 

>> Read more trending news

Since that 2013 ruling, genetic testing results have appeared in respected medical journals, and the concept of genomic risk is more accepted by the scientific community. Critics caution that consumers may take the results too literally, instead of as one piece of their health puzzle, and undergo unnecessary tests or procedures. 

The new FDA ruling allows 23andme to provide 10 genetic health risk tests for conditions ranging from late-onset Alzheimer's disease to celiac disease. The ruling also grants an exemption which could approve further genetic risk tests by 23andme more quickly.

“The FDA has embraced innovation and has empowered people by authorizing direct access to this information,” said 23andMe co-founder and CEO Anne Wojcicki in a company press release.

The new tests will begin to roll out this month and will be available to new customers immediately. Current customers will be notified of test availability. 

Scientists teleport lemonade via the internet

Lemonade stands may go virtual in the future, if scientists in Singapore can further refine their tasty experiment.

Scientists at Keio-NUS CUTE (Connective Ubiquitous Technology for Embodiments) Center captured the taste and color of lemonade and transmitted it to a remote tumbler filled with water via the internet, according to the CNET report. 

>> Read more trending news

The "virtual lemonade" experiment uses electrical currents to simulate the lemonade flavor, but the low voltage doesn't cause any discomfort. Scientists were able to change the color and the taste profile, from mild to sour, in the tumbler equipped with metal strips. 

While the concept of digital tastes isn't new, scientists hope this experiment will lead to further iterations that will have real-world usages. For example, scientists hope to create a spoon that carries a salty profile so that hospital patients who need to be on a low-salt diet could virtually flavor their food to their liking.

Elon Musk launches effort to interface human brain and computers

 

Entrepreneur Elon Musk is the man behind the car company Tesla, the inventor of PayPal and the genius behind Space X, Hyperloop and even more.

Now the billionaire inventor has launched a company called Neuralink to figure out how to connect the brain and computers, the Wall Street Journal reported.

>> Read more trending news

The idea is to create tiny devices, like electrodes, that can be implanted in the brain to eventually merge the brain with a computer to help humans stay ahead of artificial intelligence.

The devices might help improve memory or allow for direct interfacing with computers, The Verge reported.

The concept is called “neural lace,” and Musk discussed it at Recode’s Code Conference last year.

While the company has been described as being in its embryonic stage, Musk promised to release more information about it next week.

“Long Neuralink piece coming out on @waitbutwhy in about a week. Difficult to dedicate the time, but existential risk is too high not to,” he said on Twitter.

WATCH: Jeff Bezos pilots giant ‘Avatar’-style robot at private tech conference

The merging of reality and science fiction was on display as Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, showed off his robotic driving skills at the retailer’s private annual tech conference in Palm Springs, California.

Bezos tweeted a picture of himself at the Machine-Learning Automation, Robotics & Space Exploration (MARS) conference, piloting a giant, 13-foot tall, 1.5 ton robot. 

>> Read more trending news

The robot looks like a real-life version of the bipedal machine piloted by “Avatar” villain Col. Miles Quaritch, played by Stephen Lang, in James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi classic.

It’s also similar in some ways to the robotic exoskeleton suit that actress Sigourney Weaver wore to defeat the alien in another Cameron sci-fi classic, “Aliens.” 

“Why do I feel so much like Sigourney Weaver?” Bezos asked while he was operating the robot?

Then on Monday he tweeted, “I just got to pilot an awesome (and huge) robot thanks to Hankook Mirae Technology.”

South Korea-based Hankook Mirae built the machine, the Method-2, according to The Verge, and unveiled it in 2016.

The conference also showcases the latest advances and prototypes in home automation, machine learning and space exploration.

 

Winter storm 2017: Here’s how to use the Internet when you don't have access to the Internet

If you are watching the snow, sleet, ice and rain fall as you rest in the path of the winter storm that’s heading toward New England, there’s a chance you may soon be doing it without the benefit of the electrical power or the Internet.

Strong winds and ice can take down power lines and knock out internet service.

While there’s not an app for that, there is a workaround, as long as you have cellular service.

During and after the storm, you may find that making phone calls becomes impossible, and that 3G and 4G internet service isn’t working, or at least not working well. The good news is that you may still be receiving text messages.

A story from The Washington Post offers some tips on how to use Twitter in a situation where internet service is spotty. Twitter was originally a text-based service, so it lends itself well to such a use.

Here are a few other ways to keep in touch with the outside world:

Every phone has an email address, and every provider offers something called an email “gateway.” The gateway allows you to send and receive emails via the text message function on your phone.

Here, courtesy of HumanInet, is how to find your phone’s email address:

If you’re on Verizon, it’s yournumber@vtext.com (as in 5551234567@vtext.com), or if that doesn’t work, yournumber@vzwpix.com

If you’re on AT&T, it’s yournumber@txt.att.net, or if that doesn’t work yournumber@mms.att.net

If you’re on Sprint, it’s yournumber@messaging.sprintpcs.com

If you’re on T-Mobile, it’s yournumber@tmomail.net

(For other carriers, or to troubleshoot yours, check here.)

Once you have your gateway address, you’ll need to forward your email via SMS to that address.

To do that, go into “settings” in your phone and look for something like “add a forwarding address.” When you find that, type in your phone’s email address.

According to HumanInet, that method may not work on some phones. If you have a problem with your phone, you can use an automated forwarding service like TXTJet, they suggest.

If you want to send an email via text, you can enter you email address instead of a phone number.

If you want to get updates from Twitter accounts when the internet gets spotty, you can set up a SMS “Fast Follow.” You don’t even have to have a Twitter account to get updates from those you choose to follow.

You do this by texting “Follow (username)” to 40404. (Follow@NWS to follow the National Weather Service, for instance).

You cannot use this function to post on Twitter, only to receive notices.

To post something on Twitter, the social media company says to do this:

  • Send a text to Twitter code [40404] with the word START.
  • Twitter will reply and ask you to text YES to the Twitter short code.
  • Text your username to the same number. Do not use the @ symbol or quotation marks. Send your username ONLY. For example: larrybird
  • Next, text your password. This is case sensitive, so be sure you are sending your password correctly.

 Then you can text messages to go out on your Twitter account.

 If you can’t live without Facebook, even during a storm, activate Facebook via SMS by going to Facebook account settings and clicking “Mobile,” it’s on the left side of the page.

Turn on Facebook Message Forwarding and Notifications. After it’s set up, post by texting to 32665 or FBOOK.

You can even search Google by adding 466453 (GOOGLE) to your phonebook, then text to it to search.

Sources: Twitter, The Washington Post; HumanInet; Facebook; Google

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